Western Michigan University's Center for Fostering Success, the organizational structure under which the University's award-winning Seita Scholars Program and a statewide college network operates, has announced a new partnership and plans for a summer of transitions, reorganization and personnel changes.
The mission of the WMU center, its Seita program and the statewide network that grew out of the initiative remains the same—to increase the graduation rate and career achievements among youth who have aged out of Michigan's foster care system.
The WMU center is now collaborating with The New Foster Care—TNFC—a Bloomfield Hills-based organization focused on making an impact and spurring positive systemic change in Michigan's foster care system. Over the coming months, TNFC will take over some major functions of Fostering Success Michigan, the statewide network that works to expand collegiate, campus-based support programs.
The decision to recast the organizational structure was triggered by several factors, according to WMU's Dr. Yvonne Unrau, director of the Center for Fostering Success and one of the founders of the Seita Scholars Program. A grant to fund long-term sustainability strategies for the statewide network is in its final year, she notes. In addition, Maddy Day, director of outreach and training for the center who has been the face of statewide network, is leaving WMU on June 30 to pursue national consulting work with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
"We are excited to collaborate with Khadija Walker-Fobbs, executive director of The New Foster Care, to ensure continuation of the ongoing efforts," says Unrau, "We will be working with her organization to share the systemwide work going forward."
The New Foster Care is slated to take the lead on continuing to build Fostering Success Michigan's statewide network of organizations, professionals and key stakeholders. WMU's Karie Ward, project coordinator for the statewide network, will step up to lead the transition efforts.
The WMU Center for Fostering Success will continue its system change work through its Policy Action Network and research collaborations, which will be led by Dr. Linda Schmidt, WMU assistant professor of social work.
The statewide network, Fostering Success Michigan, was created in 2012 in response to the high volume of interest in campus-based programming for students. Some of the accomplishments of Fostering Success Michigan to date include:
- Growth from five to 18 Michigan higher education institutions with campus support programs for students with experience in foster care, serving an average of 335 students annually and supporting more than 214 students to graduation since 2012.
- Establishment of the website fosteringsuccessmichigan.com, which has become a leading national resource for those working in foster care and higher education and is the host site for the National Postsecondary Support Map.
- Creation of action networks specific to the engagement of higher education institutions and policy advocacy.
"The past six years have been full of success, and we're grateful to the Kresge Foundation and the Havirmill Foundation for the funding support that allowed such progress," Unrau says. "Additionally, we would like to acknowledge the collaboration with Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan College Access Network, and the students, professionals and supportive adults who have contributed so much to the success of the Fostering Success Michigan statewide initiative."